Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "You All Grow Up and Leave Me" by Piper Weiss, Served with a Fuzzy Navel Cocktail

Happy Wednesday! I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss, a book that mixes memoir with true crime. Accompanying my review is a Fuzzy Navel, a cocktail from my youth--inspired by a bottle of peach schnapps and the book. 

Publisher's Blurb:

A highly unsettling blend of true crime and coming-of-age memoir—The Stranger Beside Me meets Prep—that presents an intimate and thought-provoking portrait of girlhood within Manhattan’s exclusive prep-school scene in the early 1990s, and a thoughtful meditation on adolescent obsession and the vulnerability of youth.

Piper Weiss was fourteen years old when her middle-aged tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, one of New York City’s most prestigious private instructors, killed himself after a failed attempt to kidnap one of his teenage students. In the aftermath, authorities discovered that this well-known figure among the Upper East Side tennis crowd was actually a frightening child predator who had built a secret torture chamber—a “Cabin of Horrors”—in his secluded rental in the Adirondacks.
Before the shocking scandal broke, Piper had been thrilled to be one of “Gary’s Girls.” “Grandpa Gary,” as he was known among his students, was different from other adults—he treated Piper like a grown-up, taking her to dinners, engaging in long intimate conversations with her, and sending her special valentines. As reporters swarmed her private community in the wake of Wilensky’s death, Piper learned that her mentor was a predator with a sordid history of child stalking and sexual fetish. But why did she still feel protective of Gary, and why was she disappointed that he hadn’t chosen her?
Now, twenty years later, Piper examines the event as both a teenage eyewitness and a dispassionate investigative reporter, hoping to understand and exorcise the childhood memories that haunt her to this day. Combining research, interviews, and personal records, You All Grow Up and Leave Me explores the psychological manipulation by child predators—their ability to charm their way into seemingly protected worlds—and the far-reaching effects their actions have on those who trust them most.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 10, 2018)

My Review:

I love memoirs and I find true crime fascinating so I immediately wanted to read this book and be on the TLC Book Tour even though I only had a vague recollection of the Gary Wilensky case. I was in my late twenties, across the country, and focused on other things when in 1993, Wilensky attempted to kidnap a seventeen-year-old former tennis student and when he failed, killed himself. I had little in common with New York's Upper East Side teens and their lifestyles and private schools and tennis coaches. Piper Weiss, however, was in the middle of it all, a fourteen-year-old student of "Grandpa Gary" who was confused reconciling that Gary with the friend, mentor, and one of the few "adult allies" in her life. Also confusing for her--both then and today, are her feelings of being let down, that she wasn't the focus of Gary's so-called love. 

You All Grow Up and Leave Me vacillates primarily between 1992-93 and 2014-16 and Weiss paints a picture of growing up on the Upper East Side where many people including Weiss's mother believes is the "safe" part of New York City. With prep schools and privilege and parents focused on getting their children the best help to stand out and be successful, it seems all to easy for Gary Wilensky to insinuate himself into society and become a successful tennis coach. Because of word of mouth and his own marketing skills, no one looked closely at his background and parents gave him access, often too much, to their daughters. It wasn't until his obsession with one of "Gary's Girls" made her uncomfortable that his behavior escalated into dangerous. Piper Weiss does a good job of building Gary's background and history--although I wouldn't have minded more information on him and the actual crime. I found myself pulling up some of the articles the Weiss mentioned to learn more, but really this story is Piper's--at least in this book. 

Piper's story is both relatable and not. While her personality, family, and lifestyle were very different from mine, I think most anyone who is or was a teenage girl has had that feeling of not quite fitting in, being judged--by yourself, your friends, the boys you like, and wanting to be special and to be loved. I found myself at times both wanting to hug her and give her a shake. Both she and Gary Wilensky had (in her case, still has) their obsessions, but his came out in a chilling attempted crime and death by his own hand, while Weiss exorcises her demons by seeking to understand them and writing about them. She writes honestly, often poignantly, sometimes darkly humorous, and in a way that is a bit unsettling--the memoir-leaning parts are a bit like looking into a teenager's diary and seeing more than you might have wanted to. This book won't be for everyone, but I think it could lead to some interesting discussion. I found it unique and compelling and well worth reading. 


Author Notes: Piper Weiss has served as editor in chief at Levo, editorial director for HelloGiggles, and features editor for the New York Daily News and Yahoo. She is the author of the book My Mom, Style Icon and has written for various publications, including Hazlitt, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,, and Refinery29. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Find out more about Piper at her website, and connect with her on Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

You All Grow Up and Leave Me is full of candy and treats, alcohol and restaurant meals. In the nineties it's things like Whatchamacallit candy bars, Diet Coke, Red Vines, Sour Patch Kids and Gummy Bears. There are Mallomars and Sleepytime Tea, Tasti-D-Lite frozen dessert, spray butter, Diet Cokes, Zimas, pizza, and Fuddruckers. There are pigs-in-a-blanket, home-cooked meatloaf, carrots, roast chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and rye toast. Two decades later in present day it's a baba ganoush sandwich, boiling pasta, Genesee and whiskey shots, and Amatrician di tonno. There were popovers with strawberry butter from the Popover Cafe that I thought about replicating, but ultimately it was a bottle of peach schnapps that provided the inspiration for my food (or drink) pairing.  

(p.103) "We sit on the floor facing a lit closet full of wine bottles. There are handles of vodka and gin, a blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire, a bottle of my father's Crown Royal preserved in its velvet bag. Forget those. We go for a dusty brown jug of peach schnapps. I first discovered it years ago when my mother rubbed a schnapps-soaked Q-tip on a sore on my tongue. The taste--syrupy, pungent, buzzy--was everything ice cream had been missing. 

This is my bottle, the one my parents have forgotten about, and we swig from it before returning to my room to stash a mess of clothes in my closet. We take one last look in the mirror, first at ourselves, then at one another.

So at first I was going to make a Sex on the Beach cocktail (vodka, cranberry juice, peach schnapps, and orange juice) as it was mentioned a few pages later in the book but although I could relate to peach schnapps being Piper's introduction to alcohol, I came of age a decade earlier when Fuzzy Navels were popular and a simple, tasty cocktail to make for use underage and new to drinking--just get a hold of a bottle of peach schnapps and a gallon of orange juice and you were set. I decided that my book-related cocktail would have to be a Fuzzy Navel since I don't think I've had one in decades and I happened to have a bottle of peach schnapps leftover from when I got some to add to this Peach Iced Tea. ;-)

There are recipes all over for Fuzzy Navels--many call for equal parts of the orange juice and peach schnapps, but since I was day-drinking yesterday afternoon I went with more orange juice. Usually it goes into a highball glass but I liked the way it looked in my favorite orange fish glass with matching straws.  

Fuzzy Navel 

3 oz Peach Schnapps, or more to taste
6 oz orange juice (I like it pulpy)
orange slice to garnish

Place ice, Peach Schnapps, and orange juice into a cocktail shaker and shake and strain into a highball glass or glass of choice. Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy.

Notes/Results: A classic that takes me back to my youth. It's sweet but refreshing with the orange juice. Some people hate pulpy orange juice. I like it and I like how it adds a bit of 'body' to the drink--but you do you and use whatever orange juice and amount of schnapps you like. Yesterday was vacillating between rainy and sunny here and this drink makes me think of sunny, breezy days. I will make this again. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Wild Inside" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tuscan Bean Soup (Ribollita), Made Vegan for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

This Tuscan Bean Soup by Eric Ripert is a good way to get some healthy greens, beans and vegetables into your day. Chef Ripert's recipe uses prosciutto and Parmesan, but I wanted a vegan version so I made a few small changes--adding liquid smoke and smoked paprika to add a smoky, meaty vibe and exchanging the Parmesan in the croutons for herbs.

Ripert says, "Ribollita is a Tuscan soup whose name literally means 'reboiled' and was originally made by reheating minestrone from the previous day."

Tuscan Bean Soup
Slightly Adapted from Avec Eric by Eric Ripert
(Serves 4 to 6)

3/4 cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight or 1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans rinsed and drained
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz thickly sliced prosciutto, diced (I omitted)
1 small onion, diced
1 cup peeled and diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I used 3 cloves)
(I added 1 tsp smoked paprika)
(I added 1 tsp liquid smoke)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 small bunch Tuscan black kale (cavolo nero/lacinato kale), sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick ribbons
1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves cut in half & sliced into 1-inch thick ribbons
3 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
2 thyme sprigs
3 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, aprox 3-inches (I omitted)

1 loaf crusty bread cut into 1-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (I omitted)
(I added 1/2 tsp each dried thyme and parsley and a pinch of salt) 

If using dried beans, drain soaked beans and transfer to a medium pot. Cover with cold water and season with 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water to a boil, lower heat and simmer, until tender about 20 minutes. Drain beans, reserving about 2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the prosciuttio, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until lightly caramelized--about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the beans & liquid, broth, kale, chard, tomatoes, and smoked paprika and liquid smoke to the pot. If using canned beans add about 2 cups water. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season the soup to taste with sea salt and pepper.

While the soup is simmering, make croutons. For oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the croutons in a bowl and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over them. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the croutons and toss to coat. Place on a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden brown--about 5 to 8 minutes. 
(For vegan stove top croutons: place croutons in a bowl and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. sprinkle with dried thyme, parsley, and a pinch of sea salt and toss to coat. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and place croutons in a single layer. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring and tossing until croutons are golden brown and crispy.)  

To serve, place a few croutons in soup bowl, ladle soup over them and garnish with additional croutons. Serve Immediately.

Notes/Results: A simple but tasty soup, hearty and satisfying without being heavy. The croutons are an excellent touch--you get two textures, the soup soaked ones underneath and the crisp ones on top. I always have to make extra fried croutons because I can't stop eating them as they cook and crisp up. :-) Definitely some Parmesan on top would be delightful but I really didn't miss it with the herby croutons. Also, I am a big fan of the convenience of canned beans but when I have/take the time to soak and cook dried beans, I am almost always happier with the extra flavor and better texture they have. This simple soup makes the most of home-cooked beans and their cooking liquid. A bit of chopping, the soaking of beans, and a couple of pans are involved in the making, but this soup goes together easily enough and tastes great. I would happily make it again.

Linking up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where our theme this week was From the Mediterranean
We have some great friends and dishes in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look!

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog joins us with Instant Pot French Lentil Soup and says, "How much do you love your Instant Pot? French Lentil Soup can be made in 16 minutes cooking time in my Instant Pot, and it is so good I ate it for breakfast this morning! This naturally creamy soup has a rich flavor and lots of healthy ingredients. It's naturally gluten free, high fiber, plant based (vegan) soup."

Debra of Eliot's Eats shared Spicy Carrot and Chickpea Salad and said, "I did a quick Google search for “cookout salads for a crowd” and this popped up. I am going to keep this one on my radar. ... This is great for leftover lunches (which is why I also selfishly made this salad). *In fact, as I was eating my leftover lunches, I decided that this recipe could merit a bit more spice. I will add more sriracha next time. (I actually had some packets of sriracha at work that I dumped on my salad lunches before eating—better with a bit more spice.)"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made Nigella's Chowder with Asian Flavors and said, "Nigella Lawson has been one of my very favorites cooks for years.  The Nigella Express cookbook gets quite a bit of use and at one time, I was determined to make every single recipe in that cookbook. I'm not sure when I let that mission go by the wayside did.  Skimming through that cookbook again had me motivated so, I choose this chowder thick with cod and potatoes.  We'll see if I want to tackle more of this book.  There are many old favorites in there."

Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen brought Coriander Potato, Red Pepper and Corn Salad and said, "I know some people are not that keen on coriander, my youngest brother being one of them - but I love it. So this Coriander Potato, Red Pepper and Corn Salad appealed to me. The zesty coriander injected flavour into mediocre new potato's from the supermarket, the red pepper gave it crunch and colour and the tinned sweetcorn, burst of sweetness. Once you took a forkful, your mouth is further teased by the popping of mustard seeds. I liked it.

Finally, here at Kahakai Kitchen I made an Easy Vegan Chili from the pantry for a book review. I used black beans and black-eyed peas, added liquid smoke and smoked paprika to give it a meaty vibe and went with a variety of spices and seasonings to give it a good depth of flavor. I think even carnivores would not miss the meat.

Thanks to all who joined me at Souper Sundays this week!

About Souper Sundays:

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on the post you link up to be included.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Wild Inside" by Jamey Bradbury, Served with a Recipe for Easy Vegan Chili

Happy Aloha Friday! I'm kicking off the weekend by being a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury. It's a somewhat dark and spooky debut novel that just happens to be set in the wilds of Alaska, so I am accompanying my review with a warming bowl of simple vegan chili, made from the pantry and inspired by my reading. 

 Publisher's Blurb:

The Wild Inside is an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel — think of the Brontë sisters and Stephen King.” —John Irving

A promising talent makes her electrifying debut with this unforgettable novel, set in the Alaskan wilderness, that is a fusion of psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Chris Bohjalian, and Mary Kubica.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 20, 2018)

My Review:

I admit it was the "an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel--think of the Bronte sisters and Stephen King" quote from John Irving that had me signing up for this book tour, then it was the gorgeous cover and Alaska setting that pulled me into the book. I'm not sure what I was expecting going into the book but it definitely is different--a bit horror, a bit coming-of-age, some family drama, a dash of suspense, and yes, a little romance. It's also hard to explain in much more detail than the blurb gives without giving away spoilers for the story that are best left to unfold on their own. I will say that this is wild country and the main character, Tracy is just as wild. She's much more comfortable sledding with her dogs and hunting in the isolated Alaskan woods than she is with people--including her father and younger brother. She grieves for her late mother, who she feels is the only one who understood her and who has left Tracy with many unanswered questions. 

The story is at times quite dark, (remember 'creepy horror novel') so if you are someone who gets disturbed easily, this is probably not the book for you. Also, if a lack of quotation marks in books bothers you, you are not going to like The Wild Inside. The dialogue in the book doesn't have them, which does make it a challenge at times to figure out whether Tracy is talking to herself or to the other characters. Add to that Tracy's lack of grammar skills and it is an English teacher's nightmare (and no, that's not the horror I was referring to earlier). I think it kind of works here though, adding to Tracy's character and the tone of the book. I'm curious to hear the audio book to see how Tracy character is voiced.

I have long been fascinated by Alaska and sled dog racing and the Iditarod--the annual long-distance race from Anchorage to Nome, and I loved the glimpse into this world that the author provided. The beauty and isolation of the Alaskan wilderness is described in such a vivid way that it is almost a character. I also liked the author's ability to surprise me with the various twists and turns the novel took. There were a few things I saw coming but there were many more surprises. I found myself totally caught up in Tracy's world--even the more disturbing parts--and although I wouldn't call her exactly likable, I found myself rooting for her life to have a positive outcome and was sorry to see the book end. 

The Wild Inside won't be everyone's cup of tea or cocoa (cocoa seems more fitting for the wintry feel of this book) for the reasons I mention above-but if you like very unique stories and characters, horror and slow-burning suspense, and books set in beautiful but spooky and remote locations like Alaska, you will enjoy it.   


Author Notes: Born in Illinois, Jamey Bradbury has lived in Alaska for fifteen years, leaving only briefly to earn her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Winner of an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, she has published fiction in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3, and she has written for the Anchorage Daily News,, and storySouth. Jamey lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
Find out more about Jamey at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

The Wild Inside is pretty dark and there some parts that are definitely not appetizing, but there was still some food to be found in the book including; jerky, canned applesauce, tomatoes and raspberries (maybe canned as jam?), fruit, cookies, whiskey and chili, soda crackers, salmon, moose, steaks and burgers ("as bloody as you wanted them"), bread, unspecified leftovers, eggs, leftover beans, bacon, brownies, sandwiches, meringue, blueberry cobbler, rabbit, chocolate pie, pizza, hot cocoa/hot chocolate, moose stew, a dark chocolate candy bar, toast, vegetables for a salad, and elk meat.

Not being a meat eater and not needing a batch of brownies, cookies, or cobbler, I decided to make chili. In the book, Tracy's father cooks it. "He stirred a pot of chili on the stove, more beans than meat, but the room smelled spicy and rich as me and Scott set the table." Rather than 'more beans than meat'--I'd make mine vegan with no meat at all and serve it with tortilla chips rather than the soda crackers the Petrikoffs eat with their chili.

I get cravings for chili and tend to keep a few cans on hand for quick meals but honestly, I have yet to find a store-bought vegetarian or vegan chili that I really like. It all tastes like the cans to me, fake, too salty, and not fresh. I am always more satisfied when I take the time to throw a simple chili together and it's a great way to use up the extra cans of beans in my cupboard, fading vegetables from the crisper drawer, and play with my spices. I had purchased some Daiya vegan cheese when Whole Foods had it on sale a couple of weeks ago and I also had a half-bag of tortilla chips to use up. I used a mix of beans and boxed crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, plus a variety of spices to give it some complexity. 

Easy Pantry Vegan Chili
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 to 6)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder of choice, or to taste (I use a mix of chipotle-garlic & Aleppo chili powder)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp celery salt
1 (26.4 -28 oz ) box or can, or 2 (15 oz) cans, crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes with their juices if diced
3 (15 oz) cans low sodium beans of choice (I used 2 black beans & 1 black-eyed peas)
1 cup vegetable broth or 1 vegetable bouillon cube + 1 cup water
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp of liquid smoke, optional
1 1/2 Tbsp pickled jalapeno juice, optional (can sub pickle juice or lime juice)
sea salt and black pepper to taste

To Garnish: chopped green onions, vegan cheese, pickled jalapenos, tortilla chips as desired.

In a large heavy pan, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion, carrot, and celery and cook about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, and celery salt and cook for another minute, or until spices are fragrant. 

Add the crushed tomatoes (or the diced tomatoes with their juices), broth, soy sauce/tamari and liquid smoke, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the jalapeno juice and sea salt and black pepper to taste. 

Serve chili hot in bowls, topped with green onions, vegan cheese (I used Daiya pepper-jack) pickled jalapenos and tortilla chips. Vegan sour cream and/or avocado are nice too.

Notes/Results: I was really happy with this chili. It hit the spot on a grey, rainy day. Although made mostly from cans/boxes in the pantry, the combination spices and additions of liquid smoke, tamari/soy sauce, and jalapeno juice give it a fresh taste with depth of flavor. It also has a smoky, meaty vibe from the cumin, smoked paprika and liquid smoke. Play around with the spices you have and the heat level you like. I use a chipotle-garlic blend which isn't mouth-burning hot, along with some Aleppo pepper and find this chili to have some heat--especially on the end notes, but it's not too hot. I would happily make it again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

I'm also linking this tasty chili up to Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 


Note: A review copy of "The Wild Inside" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hurricane Season" by Lauren K. Denton, Served with a Recipe for Pimento-Cheesy Eggs on Toast

Happy Tuesday and Tax Day! If like me, even if you have done your taxes already but just the idea of 'tax day' has you craving solace, you'll want to curl up with a good book and some comfort food. I can help with that. I am delighted to be on the TLC Book Tour for Hurricane Season, the new novel by Lauren K. Denton. Accompanying my review is the ultimate comfort food--Pimento Cheesy Eggs on Toast, inspired by my reading. 

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Hideaway comes another story of families and mending the past.
Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have long since buried their desire for children of their own. While Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget her dream of motherhood. But when her free-spirited sister, Jenna, drops off her two young daughters for “just two weeks,” Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.
As the two weeks stretch deeper into the Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world—and revel in the laughter that now fills their home. Meanwhile, record temperatures promise to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.
Attending an art retreat four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She finally has time and energy to focus on her photography, a lifelong ambition. But she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home as a single mom.
When Hurricane Ingrid aims a steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that will change her family’s future, even as Betsy and Ty try to protect their beloved farm and their hearts. Hurricane Season is the story of one family’s unconventional journey to healing—and the relationships that must be mended along the way.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 3, 2018)

My Review:

I was excited to sign up for this book store as I really enjoyed the author's first book, The Hideaway (see my review here) and much likeThe Hideaway, I was immediately drawn to the cover of this one. Lauren K. Denton has the most gorgeous covers on her books--I like to just sit and look at them. But the appeal to Denton's books is also what is inside the covers, where she writes beautiful stories about relationships and creates well-developed and enjoyable characters. 

Hurricane Season is the story of sisters Betsy and Jenna, who were extremely close as children but who have grown apart in adulthood. Betsy is the responsible older sister, married to her dairy-farmer husband, working with him to grow their business, and longing for a child. Jenna is the less conventional younger sister, a single mother with two young daughters who works at a coffee shop to support her family. Betsy was Jenna's champion and caretaker when they were younger and when her sister asks her to keep Addie and Walsh for two weeks while she attends an arts retreat to work on her photography, Betsy can't say no. She also doesn't consult Ty, which causes a strain in their relationship. When Jenna sees a better future through her photos, she extends her stay at the retreat and between caring for the children and working the farm in the midst of the hurricane season with a big storm on the horizon, Betsy and Ty feel their world changing.

Betsy and Jenna both have more depth to their characters than they appear to at first--their actions aren't always likable, but I found myself liking and relating to them both. I also enjoyed Ty and Jenna's two girls, who were precocious without being annoying so. I am not a big reader of Christian Fiction but Denton's books are on the lighter side of it and faith exists as an aspect, rather than the center of the story. Much like her covers that capture the mood of the book and pull me into the setting, Denton paints the charming southern locations vividly with her words and I found myself wanting to visit both the Halcyon artist retreat and the Franklin Dairy Farm. I found myself quickly caught up in the story and was sad to see it end. Hurricane Season is a sweet book and would make a great beach read for anyone who enjoys books about sibling/sister relationships, family drama, and southern fiction. 


Author Notes: Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

Connect with Lauren on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

There was a decent amount of food in Hurricane Season including breakfast casserole, coffee, eggs, cookies, pancakes and scrambled eggs, ice tea, snap beans, pecans, chocolate pudding, yogurt, ice cream, cake, mimosas, chicken salad with grapes and nuts, pinot grigio, margaritas and tapas, Cheetos, sweet tea, spaghetti, pizzas, crackers, strawberries, pound cake, milk, apple juice, chocolate bread pudding, snickerdoodles, catfish plate, grilled shrimp, wild rice, salad, brownies, grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, apple slices, a pimento cheese sandwich, tea and homemade biscuits, fried chicken, potato salad, fried shrimp, fruity frozen drinks, chocolate milk, field peas, collards, butter beans, fried okra, cornbread, watermelon, pasta with capers, blueberry muffins, orange juice, chocolate chips, Goldfish crackers, barbecue, macaroni and cheese with bread crumb topping, fluffy biscuits, broccoli salad, tres leches cake, banana pudding, pecan pie, canned beans, Ritz crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey sandwiches with apple slices and carrots, and shrimp po'boys.   

Although pancakes, spaghetti/pasta and potato salad all came up a few times, I wanted to a make something different and I wanted it to be a dish that acknowledged the Franklin Dairy Farm where much of the story took place so I knew I wanted it to include eggs and milk or cheese. I also was craving pimento cheese--which Betsy made into a sandwich for Ty, and which I have made a couple times before on this blog. Since I had already stuffed that pimento cheese into a grilled cheese sandwich (here), I wanted to change it up and add it to an egg dish.

After seeing a recipe on Food52 for Cheese-Crusted Eggs--where fried eggs are cooked on top of melty cheese, I played around with it, making some delicious eggs with Parmesan and cheddar. I wondered if I could do something similar with pimento cheese. After all, I've seen recommendations to spread your grilled cheese with mayo--so would it melt well for eggs cooked on top? I made a small batch of pimento cheese and gave it a try.

It didn't turn out quite like I was hoping, but I wasn't too disappointed in my plate of eggs on top of melty pimento cheesy goodness on crisp toast. See Notes/Results below. 

For the Pimento Cheese: I reduced and slightly modified this recipe (using less mayo and green onion in place of white) for Classic Pimento Cheese from Quick Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang. 

1/2 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp jarred diced pimentos, drained
1 Tbsp diced green onion
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Grate the cheddar cheese using the large holes of a box grater. Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, onion and Worcestershire sauce in a medium mixing bowl. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 


For the Pimento Cheesy Eggs: 

Pimento Cheese--see recipe above
2 eggs
pepper and/or smoked paprika to taste for garnish
one or two pieces of toast

Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add about 2/3 the pimento cheese. As the cheese begins to melt, crack the eggs into the skillet over the cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

If the eggs don't cover all of the cheese, gently try to spread the whites over the cheese or scrape the cheese towards the egg. Cover and cook the eggs until the whites are set, or to your preference. Transfer to a plate, grind a bit more black pepper and sprinkle with smoked paprika if desired and enjoy.

Notes/Results: So the mayo in the pimento cheese kept things super melty and oozy rather than getting a slightly crispy and chewy crust like just cheese does. Rather than sliding it out of the pan, I just scooped it and the eggs out on top of my toast--like a cheesy gravy. I do plan to try the recipe again sans the mayonnaise but with the cheddar, pimentos and green onion and see what happens. Honestly, I can't complain too much about all of the oozy goodness that blanketed my eggs and topped my piece of toast. It's so rich that in the future I would probably do 1/2 the cheesy mixture and just one egg, but I managed to eat most of my salad plate full for brunch. This was a fun and tasty kitchen experiment that I am glad I tried and will work on perfecting. ;-)

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Hurricane Season" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.